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Fresno to Host International Transportation Innovations Summit

PEDAL, a regional and international conference for transportation professionals, policymakers, active and multi-modal transportation advocates, will be held in Fresno on October 27.

Image: City of Fresno, California.

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A regional - and international - conference gathering transportation professionals, policymakers, active and multi-modal transportation advocates is taking shape as the Fresno International Transportation Innovations Summit, to be held in Fresno on October 27. The conference is being called PEDAL - for Planning, Education, Design, Advocacy, and Lifestyle - in reference to its focus on promoting and learning about safe and sustainable transportation design, planning, and policy.

Add diplomacy to that list. The summit is sponsored by the City of Fresno, the Fresno State Transportation Institute, the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition, other local and regional organizations, and the Fresno Sister Cities project, which maintains an ongoing sister city relationship with the City of Münster in Germany. Münster calls itself the “bicycle capital” of Germany and 43 percent of trips there are made by bike.

The Mayor of Münster happened to be visiting Fresno during Bike Month last year. He attended a city council meeting where the Nick Paladino Safety Award - named after a long-time Fresno bike advocate - was being given to Tony Molina, chair of the Fresno County Bicycle Coalition. "One thing led to another," said Molina, and soon a delegation of city staffers, including Mayor Jerry Dyer and councilmembers Mike Karbassi and Luis Chavez, were heading to Münster.

"They very much want to share their desire for urban diplomacy around city sustainability - and spread the gospel of bike sustainability," said Molina, who also accompanied the delegation to Germany. While the sister city relationship does not solely focus on transportation, it has provided opportunities to compare notes and share ideas about improving each city - and bicycling is naturally a part of that.

Councilmember Mike Karbassi, who was on the trip to Münster, told the Fresno Bike Coalition at a meeting to recap the trip that his mind was opened up by what he saw there. "Their model shows what is possible for Fresno," he said. "It didn't happen overnight there, either. I feel like I need to be a part of the movement that is laying the groundwork" for better biking in Fresno.

The trip "reminded me why I got into this work in Fresno," said Laura Gromis, the executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council and chair of Fresno's Active Transportation Advisory Committee. Originally from Cologne, Germany, Gromis came to Fresno expecting a similar multimodal transportation system. However, "when I first got here, I tried [to ride my bike], but I was scared of dogs and I was scared of cars. Being in Münster reminded me that it can be a lifestyle, and walking and biking everywhere was an opportunity to connect and talk to each other and experience the city in a different way. It was very pleasant," she said.

Other trip attendees spoke with admiration of the network of bike lanes in Münster, including a loop that circles the city within the footprint of the old castle walls, about the bike boulevards where cars are considered guests, and about the low speed limits throughout the city ("It felt very comfortable as a bike rider," said Jill Gormley, Fresno's Assistant Director of Public Works). They also spoke of opportunities for change in Fresno, as well as challenges like gaps where crossing wide streets and railroad tracks is the necessary but hazardous route.

When the trip was being formulated, plans were also hatched to host a summit as a joint project between the two cities and the Fresno State Transportation Institute to make all this information widely available.

So Friday, October 27 will see a day-long event at the Fresno Convention Center. Keynote speakers will include Gil Peñalosa, city planner and founder of 8-80 Cities and Cities for Everyone, and Dr. Dan Sperling, Founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.

The summit will include conversations featuring guests from Münster as well as talks about policy and planning, bike education, the bike industry, electric vehicles, and other topics. A Mayoral panel will wrap up the discussion, with insights from Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Münster Deputy Mayor Angela Stähler, Rochester, Minnesota Mayor Kim Norton, Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Peñalosa, and Enschede, Netherlands Vice Mayor Marc Teutelink. The panel will be moderated by Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck and Fresno City Councilmember Annalisa Perea.

Pre- and post-summit events include several talks by Gil Peñalosa, who will address students at Fresno State on sustainable mobility and public spaces as well as give a talk hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council Central California on Thursday evening.

There will also be tours of Fresno's bus rapid transit system, bike tours of the city's mural and Tower districts, and the PEDAL Film Festival, featuring the film, “The Engine Inside: Riding Towards a Better Future.” That showing is currently scheduled for Thursday evening, location to be determined.

More information on the summit, including how to register, can be found at its website.

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